a toronto moment

28 August 2009

Last night I’m with my daughters and my sister and brother-in-law and nephew and niece and my cousin and a good friend and we’re at Ontario Place, sitting up on a hill to see old favourite Blue Rodeo play. Not long after the band kicks into gear I’m struck by the wonderful moment that  has presented itself.

The city skyline is to the right of the stage.  The lights of the ferris wheel and midway at the “Ex” (Canadian National Exhibition) are to the left.  The familiar Cinesphere globe and Lake Ontario are behind us.  The band is in great form – giving us the perfect mix of “Greg songs” and “Jim songs” and the band is as hot and edgy as they ever were.  The August night is delicious as only a late summer night can be.

After a really rough and overwhelming week, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.  And I’m still feeling gratitude for the magical Toronto moment with the the most wonderful company I could ask for.

Blue Rodeo “busking” at the ROM – Must have been another Toronto moment

big brains and meltdowns

27 August 2009

It’s 3:00 in the morning and I’m just home from the office and attempting to unwind with a tall can of Guinness and a blog post.  Me and the rest of this proposal team are pretty much at the end of our respective tethers after a marathon three weeks of putting this mother fu… monster together.  At various times over the past couple of days any one of us has been close to meltdown, and in the next hour talking a colleague off the ledge.

It’s a dichotomy, my job.  I get a great deal of satisfaction of teaming with a table full of big brains designing something that will further the success of our healthcare system.  And the feeling of getting a fine proposal out the door is akin to that which went with finishing all those papers and all those exams at the end of the winter semester.  On the other hand, it’s a wagonload of stress, particularly at the end when the baby is in my hands for the final letting go. 

Being able to survive write proposals makes you really popular with the people who sign your paycheque.  Especially when you win!  And they reward you with good raises and days off and lunches and stuff.  On the other hand, is all that worth the hours I’ve surely shaved off my life with the strain on my nervous system over the last week?

Tomorrow night is going to be a fun family and friends night down at the Molson Amphitheatre seeing Blue Rodeo and the Weakerthans.  And if I can sum up those last dregs of mental energy and bust my ass one more day, I can snag Friday off. 

Perhaps it’s one of those oh-so-human twists of logic, but the anticipated next couple of days will make that mother of all proposal submissions that much more satisfying.

technical genius

23 August 2009

I lost my blog for awhile.  And what an exercise in frustration – trying to get help from virtual geekdom.  Clearly my interpretation of what the WordPress world labels as “easy”  was on the wrong side of understanding. 

And I’ve had no time to deal with the whole thing – my job has been exceedingly demanding, and by the time I get home in evenings (or late nights), I’m not exactly up for taking risks with a year’s worth of journals.  What breaks my heart most is having acquired this readership, this circle of like-minded friends who were all kind enough to check in on this little life.  I hope I can find you back.

In the meantime I have saved the posts.  It took some time but everything’s copied, and I really want to hang on to my realia url – – or do I?  Am I married to it?  But here I am, back on the “wordpress for amateurs” site.  And it’s bugging the hell out of me that I don’t have creative control over the look of this blog, even though I’m quite sure you could care less.  I’m sure it’s just another way for me to avoid the real work – the writing.

Thanks for coming back.  I’m really glad you’re here.  And if I’ve learned anything in this exercise, it’s that I need this blog.  I can’t face the oncoming seasons without it. 

Best.  Mean it.

jm

is it me, er

11 August 2009

Yesterday I took a “mental health” day off.  I had suffered with a rotten fevery cold all weekend and didn’t do a whole lot more than laying around.  So yesterday I claimed one of those weekend days back.  In honour of that, I carried out a couple of the the items on my “small steps” list from the other day, one of which is getting down to the beach more often to write.  

I must say, I didn’t write much, but I had a really rewarding walk – down past the end of the boardwalk and up a little hill to Neville Park and back on to Queen Street to linger over the shops and treat myself to a late lunch/early supper on the patio of my favourite pub. 

I stop a few times to listen to the water lapping (gosh, I really miss living beside the lake) and watch dogs run with their pals in the leash-free areas.  I find a fun circular pattern made of rocks in a stretch of sand left by some weekend beach visitor.  At one point I stop and admire this marvellously humanoid tree.  I first see the obvious: a serene queen with a dramatic tall crown, hair falling down around her face and arms held up to the sky.  Then, the more I sit with the tree, I find ancient faces emerging all over it. 

Humanoid Tree Compressed

Tree faces Compressed

I just hope the parks people aren’t in a hurry to move this tree.  I think she and all her otherworldly friends are indicating a great place to sit awhile and write.

At home in my dining room is a marvellous little piece of old tree root sitting amongst the plants that I found on the trail near my father’s Manitoulin Island place a few years ago.  As I sat admiring my find that day, my father said, “I suppose you see faces in that old piece of wood.”  He knows his daughter and her habit of finding faces everywhere.  I think I subconsciously seek them out.  I don’t know what a psycho-analyst might say about that, but let’s not go there.

sky drama

10 August 2009

Tonight I’m on my way home and I’m thinking I’ll take the long way and go down and walk by the lake.  But it soon becomes apparent there is another thunderstorm approaching, and I’ve forgotten my umbrella.  So I stay on course and step up my pace, but I can’t help but stop and watch the sky every minute or so.  Within minutes it changes from dove grey to to steel to deep plum, overlaid with greenish black clouds flying fast and low south toward the lake.  Looking west, downtown, it’s a dramatic picture of the skyline and the CN Tower with those black clouds swirling around it like a silk scarf in the wind.

The wind starts whipping the tops of the trees and blowing bits of paper and I walk faster, feeling energised by the electricity in the air.  The temperature drops and I wonder if I’m going to get home dry.  I jog past some people waiting for the streetcar, and a girl struggles to open her umbrella but it keeps popping inside out.  By the time I get to the alley leading to my street it’s as dark as midnight and big fat drops are falling.  I congratulate myself on getting home in the nick of time, and as I deposit my bags in the kitchen thunder is booming and it’s raining hard.

I enjoy the lightning storm that crosses south over the sky and continues to provide its dramatic show after the rain and wind subside, and I watch it as it travels farther and farther away across the lake.

Writers and creative people often get stuck.  I can be one of the ‘stuckest’ – and I’ve come to learn that one of the best ways to become unstuck is to take small steps.  When you walk – figuratively or literally – the ever-benevolent universe begins to put things in your path.  And you begin to uncover opportunities in the unlikeliest of places.

So many people get stuck because they are too focused on the great big steps, or grand result they are envisioning their art or their lives to be.  It gets overwhelming, and then we turn to time wasters while we wait for the right time, the right place, more money, a better job, a nicer day, next weekend, new art supplies…

Time wasters get us nowhere.  Little steps get us somewhere.  I’m not against time wasters in general – every now and then it’s important to waste some time.  It’s called resting.  But time wasters can also impede our progress – they can stand in the way of what we want.

So in honour of my own desire for change in certain elements of my life, I’m recognising some time wasters that have got to go, and I’ve made a free-write list of little steps.  They may not take me directly to my dreams today or tomorrow, but they’ll get me moving.

And for the first time in a long time, I’m saying: “Hey universe – just throwin’ it out there…”

Visualize the perfect gig.
Make some pages in creative journal – experiment with processes.
Visit that creative journal every evening after dinner.
Get back to yoga.
Embrace cooking again.
Try some new recipes.
Bring my camera with me every day.
Do something fun in my city every Saturday morning.
Visualize/draw/collage the happiest workspace.
Don’t buy coffee at work anymore.
More aimless walking.  Bring camera.
Update collage file.
Organize art supplies.
Do my dishes every night.
Pay attention to those disorganized bookshelves.
Make a list of artist dates.
Go to the AGO on a weeknight.
Go to the beach more often and write there.
Find a new place to live.
Do morning pages again.
Go to bed at 11 or earlier every night.
Write more poetically – more abstractly.
Add it to decorated pages.
Make some dolls, collaged and real.
Fix the desk chair.
Replace the fridge magnet poetry.
Find those random piles of stuff.  Eliminate them.
Make some things to hang in the windows.
Find a pretty throw for the couch.
Get off the couch.
Put clothes away.
Call my mother.
Organize paperwork.
Clean out file cabinet.
Eat fish twice a week.
Go for night walks again.
Get up earlier in mornings – take that time for me.
Sit up straight.
Get out the stair stepper.
Clean the refrigerator.
Get a pedicure twice a month.

Note:  This list is too long.  Because it’s like going to a restaurant and looking at their ten-page menu and finding yourself unable to decide what to eat.  So the first little step is to select five of the little steps for this weekend, and maybe ten for the next week.

Now you.  Take a little time and write some little steps.  Do it for yourself.

Tonight I made a big ol’ pot of marinara sauce.  It’s stage one of a mid-week lasagne project.

See, a few months ago, I casually stated on a facebook meme (25 Things About Me) that no one makes lasagne as good as me.  (Well it’s true.)  Following that, a number of friends campaigned for the recipe.  One friend got to campaigning too, but not for the recipe.  No, she would love one of my famous (now infamous) lasagnes.  And well, even though she said she wasn’t being serious, I should have made her one, without hesitation, because she has had me to her home numerous times for warm and wonderful meals.  And she’s a wife and a mother of two young girls and she’s a journalist, and frankly busts her ass to run that household and maintain her career.

Anyway, out of the “goodness of my heart” I post the recipe on facebook, and weakly suggest to my friend, “how about Minute Minestrone Soup?” because I was working six days a week at the time (albeit no husband, no kids) and as its name implies, the soup, while quite delicious, is  SUBSTANTIALLY faster to make than one of my giant monster pans of noodles, sauce, veg and cheese, which would have consumed the bulk of my only day off in the week.  (I know, wah wah wah.)

Well, as it happened, my friend was riding her bike to work in downtown Toronto.  And she got doored.  And very nearly lost her finger, which subsequently had to be re-attached surgically, in the same week she and her family were to head off on an anticipated vacation in Banff.  And as anyone who loves to feed her family with home cooked meals would understand, she finds herself in a bit of a sitch.  (That’s not even mentioning the journalist who types for a living part.)

So anyway, tomorrow is stage two: assembling the monster.  And a mini monster to send home with my mother next time I see her.

I CAN be domestic once in awhile.  Man does that sauce smell good – I better go have another spoonful, just to make sure.